Wild elephants on the brink - experts
KASANE — African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a few decades, experts warned at a major conservation summit in Botswana that highlighted an alarming decline in numbers due to poaching for ivory.
The Africa Elephant Summit, held at a tourist resort in Kasane, gathered delegates from about 20 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, including China — which is accused of fuelling the illegal poaching trade.
“This species could be extinct in our lifetime, within one or two decades, if the current trend continues,” Dune Ives, senior researcher at Vulcan, a philanthropic organisation run by US billionaire Paul Allen, said.
“In five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal.”
The conference heard latest figures from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which reported that the African elephant population had dropped from 550 000 in 2006 to 470 000 in 2013.
East Africa has seen the worst decline, from 150 000 to about 100 000.
“The overall objective of this meeting is to secure commitments at the highest political level to effectively protect the elephants and significantly reduce the trends of killings of elephants,” said Elias Magosi, from the Botswanan environment ministry.
“The current killing rate is unsustainable and the population of African elephants is in danger.”
Elephant hunting is often organised by international criminal networks to supply the illegal ivory market, mainly in Asia, with some profits thought to fund regional conflicts and militants.
“These syndicates take advantage of conflicts, social unrest, poor governance,” Mr Magosi said.
Ivory trading routes TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring group, said ivory trading routes demonstrated the flow from Kenya and Tanzania to transit countries including Vietnam and Philippines, before going on final markets in China and Thailand.
There, the ivory is sculpted into jewellery or art pieces that are prized by the wealthy.
“Thailand is still a country of great concern,” Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC said.
“(But) China is the most important country that we are dealing with in the world with respect to illegal ivory trade.”
Tshekedi Khama, Botswanan minister of tourism and wildlife, also railed against China, saying:
“Whether we like it or not, the determining fact and the end result is totally in the hands of China.”
Participants told AFP that during a closed discussion at the conference, a Chinese delegate complained that the country was being unfairly targeted and should be considered an ally in fight to save the elephant.
The delegate said China funds anti-poaching efforts in Africa and is strengthening legislation.
The conference follows up a 2013 meeting when 30 countries adopted a set of urgent conservation measures, including a call to unite against poaching and for improved criminal prosecution.
“We need a lot of collaboration,” said Kelly Landen from Elephants Without Borders.
“Elephant are crossing frontiers and moving from safe areas to poaching areas. This need to be addressed. But we are moving in the right way.”
Last Wednesday, the Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) will also meet in Kasane to focus on the trafficking of all threatened species — an illegal trade worth $19 billion a year, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Ivory is reportedly bought at $100 ( M1 087) per kilogramme from poachers, and sold for $2 100 in China.
Julian Blanc, an elephant specialist for the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), said the link between poverty in Africa and poaching highlighted one way to tackle the illegal killing of elephants.
“We have monitored a direct correlation between human infant mortality (a measure of poverty) at district level and levels of poaching,” he said.
“In places where there is high level of infant mortality and poverty, we monitored the highest level of elephant poaching... so addressing poverty is a significant component of elephant conservation.” — AFP DAKAR — A special court in Senegal sentenced the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade on Monday to six years in prison for corruption and ordered him to pay a 138 billion CFA franc ($2 47 billion) fine, dashing his hopes of competing in elections due in 2017.
Karim Wade, in detention since April 2013, was chosen by the main opposition party, the Senegalese Democratic Party (SDP), as its presidential candidate on Saturday, raising the stakes ahead of the verdict. He denies any wrongdoing.
“The crime of illicit enrichment being proven, Karim Wade: six years in prison and a fine of 138 billion CFA francs,” judge Henri Gregoire Diop said in the ruling, adding that Mr Wade had hidden away funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.
Opposition supporters inside the courtroom protested loudly after the verdict. “I no longer want to be Senegalese,” shouted one woman. “This verdict is shameful.”
Karim (46) did not attend the final session of the trial and his father Abdoulaye Wade left without making any comment to the media. Karim and his lawyers have boycotted the end of the trial after accusing judge Diop of bias, something he strongly denies.
The streets of Dakar were calm immediately after the trial amid a heavy police presence to counter possible protests.
Karim Wade, who staged a fourday hunger strike in January to protest over the conditions of his detention, has repeatedly said he is the victim of a political witch hunt, something the government strongly denies. — Reuters.
Rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service set fire to 15 tonnes of elephant tusks during an anti-poaching ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya on 3 March.